Hi, I’m Manasseh and I’m a rising senior at Princeton University studying Philosophy. This summer, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to work with the Sextant Foundation as one of their Reimagining Volunteers. While over the summer the rest of the volunteers and I have worked on a variety of projects, I’ve had the opportunity of being on a team whose primary focus is drafting a paper that will be submitted to the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. This paper aims to highlight some of the most pressing issues that arise when thinking of the intersection between our rapidly changing climate and the healthcare sector. To do so, throughout the summer we’ve had the pleasure of being able to sit in on 9 different workshops with some really inspiring individuals within the healthcare system. These workshops focused on understanding the current state of the healthcare system, its relationship with climate change, and where we need to go from here to both adapt to and mitigate the problems that will continue to arise. Working with the Sextant Foundation and the participants of our workshops, I’ve gained an invaluable amount of key insights into not only how the healthcare system currently operates but what it struggles with and opportunities for change and growth in it with regards to climate change.
What is the most inspiring insight you got from drafting the paper?
One of the most inspiring insights I got from drafting the paper came from background research and attending the workshops. Climate change is a daunting problem, and something that needs immediate attention. However, I don’t think it’s picking up enough steam at a rate that is needed at the moment. Even though that is a current reality, researching and sitting in on workshops with high level people currently in the healthcare field has made me a bit more relieved. There are so many people who care about the changing climate, its impact on health, and the related adversities that it can present especially for vulnerable populations and future designing. I’ve not only heard amazing ideas about how to address a variety of climate issues, but have also heard real stories about the challenges that inhibit progress. As someone from a younger generation, it often seems like the concerns that older generations have do not align with what we worry about in our future, but they do, and people are already working on it. I am confident that we have all of the resources to drive change, it just needs a continual effort to see it through.
Any memorable moments from attending the workshops?
The main things that stand out to me from the workshops are the radical ideas that some participants have presented. One of the biggest challenges seems to be inertia and risk based decision making, and I think radical ideas are what we need to shake institutions up and get them primed for change. One of my favorites has been this idea of total reintegrating ourselves with the natural environment that surrounds us. This essentially means that we’d be more cognizant of the environmental spaces that our cities and buildings take up and make an effort to use the natural world to further advance our health. A theme mentioned in the workshops was about how our current healthcare system has become both artificial and reactionary in some places and how we may need to rethink certain practices that have unintended consequences on our health. This includes thinking about everything from how we could design buildings for optimal natural air flow and sun utilization to revitalizing urban tree canopies to reduce urban pollution levels and bring us closer to nature. There have been so many amazing conversations and ideas that have been discussed within the workshops and I’m excited to see them worked on in the future.
What is the impact of your work this summer?
Honestly, I don’t know the impact of the work that we’ve done this summer. If I had to guess, I’d say it definitely was not a big impact, but it was still valuable in its own regard. One thing that has been reiterated countless times throughout the summer has been the underestimation of the power of aggregation. Small things do add up. And small goals are much easier to accomplish. While I may not have had as much of a direct impact as I may have wanted, I still helped further the goals of Sextant, worked with amazing leaders within the healthcare industry, and learned about ways to continue contributing to the movement that aims to advance healthcare practices within our changing climate.
How was the work related to your academic study?
I don’t think the work I’ve done this summer directly relates to my undergraduate academic study, but more so my academic studies as a whole. In the future, I’d like the opportunity to work within the healthcare sector and to genuinely impact people's lives for the better with regards to their health. At the moment, I’m undecided between whether that means going to medical school or finding an indirect approach to this. If anything, what I’ve learned this summer is that there are a variety of paths to get involved within the healthcare sector and that becoming a doctor is not the only way to positively impact the health of others. It may be the most direct, but definitely is not the only way.
Share with us a hobby you developed during social distancing.
A hobby that I’ve gotten more into during this period has been biking. It’s a great way to exercise, social distance, and get out to local parks and the beach. Put sunscreen on though! I’ve gotten surprisingly burnt from biking which was new for me.